Mexican Chopped Chicken Salad

Eating salad for dinner. Are we good there? How do you feel about main dish salads? I used to get a little scared at the thought of serving salad for dinner’s main course. Just because I can eat salad every day for the rest of forever doesn’t mean Brian and the kids were crazy about it. I was never sure it would fill them up and texturally, I had a few kids who gagged on lettuce for the longest time (weren’t we so happy when that phase was over).

Since I was determined to make salad-for-dinner work for us and because there are so many fabulous main dish salads worth loving, I’ve adopted a few tips and tricks over the years to make even my kids gobble up salad like it’s their last meal.

Here’s how I make eating salad work for our whole family:

-Load the salad with a lot of other things besides lettuce. Some of our favorite salads are chopped-style, heartily filled with beans, cubed cheese, a protein or meat of some kind, and many other things. Not only does this give a lot of diversity to ingredients but my kids go crazy over all the colors.
-Offer even more toppings. Letting the kids add crushed tortilla chips, toasted sunflower seeds, extra cheese, bacon bits or anything else that fits in with the flavors of the salad allows them to customize their portion just the way they want. My kids eat so much better when they have some part in making dinner, even if it’s just throwing craisins on top of their salad.
-Serve the salad with bread. Nearly every time salad’s on the menu for dinner, I also make sure to have breadsticks or some kind of roll or grilled flatbread or biscuits or…you get the picture. It helps fill all the hollow legs sitting at my dining table as well as offer negotiating points: three more bites of salad and you get another breadstick type of thing.

Mexican Chopped Chicken Salad

This Mexican chopped salad full of tender chicken, crisp lettuce and veggies, olives and cheese and so much more is fantastic. The super easy homemade honey vinaigrette takes only minutes to shake together and then is poured over everything but the lettuce, cheese and avocados and left to marinate for a few hours. If everything else is chopped up and ready, throwing the salad together at dinnertime will take no time at all. The flavors are bright and fresh and slightly smoky and this salad has quickly cemented itself into our main dish faves.

In case you also love a good main dish salad, here are a few of our other favorites:

One Year Ago: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
Two Years Ago: Outrageous Eskimo Bars
Three Years Ago: Crab and Goat Cheese Ravioli

Mexican Chopped Chicken Salad

Yield: Serves 6

Mexican Chopped Chicken Salad

I didn't add this in the ingredients list but one time I made this and I added jicama to the lineup of crunchy vegetables and oh my, it was deliciousness.


  • 1/2 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salad:
  • 4 cups cooked, chopped chicken (from a rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken or this simple skillet method)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup chopped cherry or roma tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts chopped
  • 15-ounce can olives, drained and cut in half
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 small romaine hearts, chopped (about 6-8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 cup cubed sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (or a combination)
  • Sour cream, blue corn tortilla chips and salsa for serving


  1. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients (or shake like crazy in a covered mason jar) until combined.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the chicken, corn, tomatoes, beans, green onions, olives and red pepper with about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 8 hours.
  3. When ready to serve, toss the chicken mixture with the lettuce, cilantro, avocados, cheese and the remaining dressing (to taste - you may not want to add it all).
  4. Serve immediately with sour cream, crushed tortilla chips and salsa.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from a recipe a reader, Nicole T., sent me (thanks, Nicole!)

19 Responses to Mexican Chopped Salad with Simple Honey Vinaigrette

  1. Ashlee says:

    In an effort to eat more vegetables, my hubby and I have been eating salads for lunch. I prep several in a jar for us to be able to have a grab and go lunch (like what our best bites showed). I made this salad in a jar style, with leftover taco chicken, all the veggies on the bottom, then stuffed in romaine & spinach. I left the vinaigrette in a different container, and we just pour it over our serving. It was so yummy!!! Thanks for a keeper!

  2. Becca says:

    We LOVE this salad! We have it like once a week. We totally are a “salad for dinner” family. Thanks for sharing the love and goodness!

  3. Amy says:

    I have an incredibly picky eater, and salads work great for him!!! He loves the options he has when I offer all the extras in individual bowls, and the dressing is an instant “dippy”. We absolutely adore all your salads, and the options for all the dressing you offer!! Thanks for all you do for this wonderful blog. You have helped me to be a good cook, and we all appreciate that!! haha

  4. Sarah Keller says:

    Just made this salad last night. It was so good! I wasn’t sure about how the dressing would taste, but it was light and super flavorful! Three out of my four kids really liked the salad. One kid cried. Funny thing was, it was my oldest. He was really hungry and started crying when we had salad on the table as the main course! I assured him that there was homemade bread (thanks for the tip) and I left some of the chicken out of the salad he could eat on the side. We do have a rule in my house that everyone has to try everything on the table. So, he tried it and made it through the meal. 🙂

  5. meg says:

    So I don’t think I have words to describe just how much my family loved this salad tonight!!! We grill chicken basically every Sunday, but we’ve always had roasted vegetables with it. Our kitchen is getting hot so my husband suggested we just have a main course chicken salad instead of using the oven. I was super nervous about the idea since my 8, 6, & 2 year olds don’t necessarily think salad is the best thing ever. . . well we made this and they were all guzzling it down! And so were my husband and I! The flavor of that vinegrette is absolutely perfect! My husband said it was like having a flavor explosion in his mouth! Seriously delicious! Thank you so much, as always, for your crazy hard work! What with your play dough we made earlier today, and then this salad, we are true fans:)

  6. Laura says:

    This looks great! Just one question – is there any oil in the salad dressing?

  7. I do all the same things to make main dish salads work for us! Especially since my youngest still won’t touch veggies. At all. Here’s hoping that little phase will end soon. I laughed at the “negotiating with bread” bit though because I definitely do that!! This salad looks amazing!

  8. Cammee says:


  9. Sally says:

    This looks great. I think I’ll make the dressing with lime juice instead of vinegar. Lime and honey are a favorite taste combination.

  10. Kristi says:

    This looks so yummy! I am going to try it as a mason jar salad for work 🙂

  11. Kim in MD says:

    I love chopped salad, and love everything about this one. Yum!

  12. Emily says:

    One way I’ve been able to get my kids to love salad for dinner is making it “super chopped.” I load up their (or my) choice salad ingredients (all regularly cut-up like usual) and dump it all on a cutting board with the dressing poured over top. Then I go to town chopping it up with two knives, actually pretty small, almost like cole slaw consistency. The kids can eat their salad with a spoon and they don’t worry about the different textures like nuts, green onions, lettuce, beans, cheese, etc. But they do get a good taste of all the ingredients in one easy bite and it is something else to see my 6 and 4 year old shoveling salad into their mouth and asking for seconds! 🙂 I actually like it “super chopped” for myself too, I love getting all the tastes in one bite without trying to fit a huge lettuce leaf into my mouth!

    I’m sure you’ve seen salad kits at the store that are already “chopped.” This is just my homemade version of it.

  13. alyssa says:

    looks yummy! just made…finally…your home made crescent rolls for chicken pillows last night. they were a hit, even if it was a bit crazy with soccer madness at our house. 🙂

  14. malinda says:

    We love salads here but I have to split up the ingredients on the kids plates. They have trouble with it all mixed together, my 7 year old is coming around though.

  15. Heather bell says:

    Love the breadstick theory!!

  16. Liz says:

    I discovered Jicama with Californa Pizza Kitchen’s bbq chicken chop salad (my personal favorite “salad for dinner” which I now make myself). Jicama is a great salad addition … crunchy, a bit sweet, no odd texture :)! I also like it sliced with lime juice, salt, pepper and a wee bit of olive oil. And crossing ethnic boundaries, I also like jicama sticks dipped in hummus.

    Thanks also for the lineup of other salad for dinner options – some great ideas there!

  17. Sheila says:

    Thanks Nicole T and Mel! Favorite meal is a nutritional rich salad with lean protein. My whole family is in agreement. The dressings sounds really good — a wonderful Spring-get-in-shape meal.

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